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Impounding of Passport and CrPc

Avinash Bhosale Vs. Union of India (UOI) Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Mumbai Zonal Unit-13, Enforcement Directorate and State of Maharashtra (Decided on 08.10.2008) MANU/MH/0932/2008

Impounding of passport – Applicability of Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C.) – Section 104; Income Tax Act – Section 131 and 131(3); Passport Act – Sections 10, 10(3) and 23 – Whether any authority carrying out investigation and/or inquiry under the Foreign Exchange Management Act and/or under the Income Tax Act has authority, in law, to impound the passport.

In the Oxford Dictionary impound means to take legal or formal possession. In the present case, the passport of the appellant is in possession of CBI right from the date it has been seized by CBI. Under Cr.P.C., the Court is empowered to impound any document or thing produced before it whereas the Act speaks specifically of impounding of the passport. The Supreme Court in a judgment in the case of Suresh Nanda v. Central Bureau of Investigation reported in MANU/SC/7020/2008; in no uncertain terms, held that the Passports Act is a complete code in relation to impounding of the passport and even a Court exercising powers under Section 104 of the Criminal Procedure Code has no authority, power or jurisdiction to impound a passport. It is held that Passports Act is a special legislation dealing with a specific subject and hence for impounding of the passport, one has to have recourse to the provisions of the Passports Act. When there exists a special act, the general provision would yield to the specific provision. While interpreting the term documents appearing in Section 104 of the Cr.P.C., the Apex Court has held that the term documents cannot be so widely read so as to include passport. The Apex Court has further clarified that the act of seizure of a document would be referable to a given point of time when the document is taken possession of and retention of the document over a period of time would tantamount to impounding of document. Impound means to keep in custody of the law. There must be some distinct action which will show that documents or things have been impounded. The passport can only be impounded by having recourse to the provisions of the Passport Act by the authority vested with the power under the said Act.

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